Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Devil's Bridge

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The Hospice - The Two Rivers - The Devil's Bridge - Pleasant Recollections.

I ARRIVED at the Devil's Bridge at about eleven o'clock of a fine but cold day, and took up my quarters at the inn, of which I was the sole guest during the whole time that I continued there; for the inn, standing in a lone, wild district, has very few guests except in summer, when it is thronged with tourists, who avail themselves of that genial season to view the wonders of Wales, of which the region close by is considered amongst the principal.

The inn, or rather hospice - for the sounding name of hospice is more applicable to it than the common one of inn - was built at a great expense by the late Duke of Newcastle. It is an immense lofty cottage with projecting eaves, and has a fine window to the east which enlightens a stately staircase and a noble gallery. It fronts the north, and stands in the midst of one of the most remarkable localities in the world, of which it would require a far more vigorous pen than mine to convey an adequate idea.

Far to the west is a tall, strange-looking hill, the top of which bears no slight resemblance to that of a battlemented castle. This hill, which is believed to have been in ancient times a stronghold of the Britons, bears the name of Bryn y Castell, or the hill of the castle. To the north-west are russet hills, to the east two brown paps, whilst to the south is a high, swelling mountain. To the north, and just below the hospice, is a profound hollow with all the appearance of the crater of an extinct volcano; at the bottom of this hollow the waters of two rivers unite; those of the Rheidol from the north, and those of the Afon y Mynach, or the Monks' River, from the south-east. The Rheidol, falling over a rocky precipice at the northern side of the hollow, forms a cataract very pleasant to look upon from the middle upper window of the inn. Those of the Mynach which pass under the celebrated Devil's Bridge are not visible, though they generally make themselves heard. The waters of both, after uniting, flow away through a romantic glen towards the west. The sides of the hollow, and indeed of most of the ravines in the neighbourhood, which are numerous, are beautifully clad with wood.

Penetrate now into the hollow above which the hospice stands. You descend by successive flights of steps, some of which are very slippery and insecure. On your right is the Monks' River, roaring down its dingle in five successive falls, to join its brother the Rheidol. Each of the falls has its own peculiar basin, one or two of which are said to be of awful depth. The length which these falls with their basins occupy is about five hundred feet. On the side of the basin of the last but one is the cave, or the site of the cave, said to have been occupied in old times by the Wicked Children - the mysterious Plant de Bat - two brothers and a sister, robbers and murderers. At present it is nearly open on every side, having, it is said, been destroyed to prevent its being the haunt of other evil people. There is a tradition in the country that the fall at one time tumbled over its mouth. This tradition, however, is evidently without foundation, as from the nature of the ground the river could never have run but in its present channel. Of all the falls, the fifth or last is the most considerable: you view it from a kind of den, to which the last flight of steps, the ruggedest and most dangerous of all, has brought you. Your position here is a wild one. The fall, which is split into two, is thundering beside you; foam, foam, foam is flying all about you; the basin or cauldron is boiling frightfully below you; hirsute rocks are frowning terribly above you, and above them forest trees, dank and wet with spray and mist, are distilling drops in showers from their boughs.

But where is the bridge, the celebrated bridge of the Evil Man? From the bottom of the first flight of steps leading down into the hollow you see a modern-looking bridge, bestriding a deep chasm or cleft to the south-east, near the top of the dingle of the Monks' River; over it lies the road to Pont Erwyd. That, however, is not the Devil's Bridge; but about twenty feet below that bridge, and completely overhung by it, don't you see a shadowy, spectral object, something like a bow, which likewise bestrides the chasm? You do! Well, that shadowy, spectral object is the celebrated Devil's Bridge, or, as the timorous peasants of the locality call it, the Pont y Gwr Drwg. It is now merely preserved as an object of curiosity, the bridge above being alone used for transit, and is quite inaccessible except to birds and the climbing wicked boys of the neighbourhood, who sometimes at the risk of their lives contrive to get upon it from the frightfully steep northern bank, and snatch a fearful joy, as, whilst lying on their bellies, they poke their heads over its sides worn by age, without parapet to prevent them from falling into the horrid gulf below. But from the steps in the hollow the view of the Devil's Bridge, and likewise of the cleft, is very slight and unsatisfactory. To view it properly, and the wonders connected with it, you must pass over the bridge above it, and descend a precipitous dingle on the eastern side till you come to a small platform in a crag. Below you now is a frightful cavity, at the bottom of which the waters of the Monks' River, which comes tumbling from a glen to the east, whirl, boil, and hiss in a horrid pot or cauldron, called in the language of the country Twll yn y graig, or the hole in the rock, in a manner truly tremendous. On your right is a slit, probably caused by volcanic force, through which the waters after whirling in the cauldron eventually escape. The slit is wonderfully narrow, considering its altitude which is very great - considerably upwards of a hundred feet. Nearly above you, crossing the slit, which is partially wrapt in darkness, is the far-famed bridge, the Bridge of the Evil Man, a work which, though crumbling and darkly grey, does much honour to the hand which built it, whether it was the hand of Satan or of a monkish architect; for the arch is chaste and beautiful, far superior in every respect, except in safety and utility, to the one above it, which from this place you have not the mortification of seeing. Gaze on these objects, namely, the horrid seething pot or cauldron, the gloomy volcanic slit, and the spectral, shadowy Devil's Bridge for about three minutes, allowing a minute to each, then scramble up the bank and repair to your inn, and have no more sight-seeing that day, for you have seen enough. And if pleasant recollections do not haunt you through life of the noble falls and the beautiful wooded dingles to the west of the bridge of the Evil One, and awful and mysterious ones of the monks' boiling cauldron, the long, savage, shadowy cleft, and the grey, crumbling, spectral bridge, I say boldly that you must be a very unpoetical person indeed.


Dinner at the Hospice - Evening Gossip - A Day of Rain - A Scanty Flock - The Bridge of the Minister - Legs in Danger.

I DINED in a parlour of the inn commanding an excellent view of the hollow and the Rheidol fall. Shortly after I had dined, a fierce storm of rain and wind came on. It lasted for an hour, and then everything again became calm. Just before evening was closing in I took a stroll to a village which stands a little way to the west of the inn. It consists only of a few ruinous edifices, and is chiefly inhabited by miners and their families. I saw no men, but plenty of women and children. Seeing a knot of women and girls chatting I went up and addressed them. Some of the girls were very good-looking; none of the party had any English; all of them were very civil. I first talked to them about religion, and found that, without a single exception, they were Calvinistic-Methodists. I next talked to them about the Plant de Bat. They laughed heartily at the first mention of their name, but seemed to know very little about their history. After some twenty minutes' discourse I bade them good-night and returned to my inn.

The night was very cold; the people of the house, however, made up for me a roaring fire of turf, and I felt very comfortable. About ten o'clock I went to bed, intending next morning to go and see Plynlimmon, which I had left behind me on entering Cardiganshire. When the morning came, however, I saw at once that I had entered upon a day by no means adapted for excursions of any considerable length, for it rained terribly; but this gave me very little concern; my time was my own, and I said to myself: "If I can't go to-day I can perhaps go to-morrow." After breakfast I passed some hours in a manner by no means disagreeable, sometimes meditating before my turf fire, with my eyes fixed upon it, and sometimes sitting by the window, with my eyes fixed upon the cascade of the Rheidol, which was every moment becoming more magnificent. At length about twelve o'clock, fearing that if I stayed within I should lose my appetite for dinner, which has always been one of the greatest of my enjoyments, I determined to go and see the Minister's Bridge which my friend the old mining captain had spoken to me about. I knew that I should get a wetting by doing so, for the weather still continued very bad, but I don't care much for a wetting provided I have a good roof, a good fire, and good fare to betake myself to afterwards.

So I set out. As I passed over the bridge of the Mynach River I looked down over the eastern balustrade. The Bridge of the Evil One, which is just below it, was quite invisible. I could see, however, the pot or crochan distinctly enough, and a horrible sight it presented. The waters were whirling round in a manner to describe which any word but frenzied would be utterly powerless. Half-an-hour's walking brought me to the little village through which I had passed the day before. Going up to a house I knocked at the door, and a middle-aged man opening it, I asked him the way to the Bridge of the Minister. He pointed to the little chapel to the west, and said that the way lay past it, adding that he would go with me himself, as he wanted to go to the hills on the other side to see his sheep.

We got presently into discourse. He at first talked broken English, but soon began to speak his native language. I asked him if the chapel belonged to the Methodists.

"It is not a chapel," said he, "it is a church."

"Do many come to it?" said I.

"Not many, sir, for the Methodists are very powerful here. Not more than forty or fifty come."

"Do you belong to the Church?" said I.

"I do, sir - thank God!"

"You may well be thankful," said I, "for it is a great privilege to belong to the Church of England."

"It is so, sir," said the man, 'though few, alas! think so."

I found him a highly-intelligent person. On my talking to him about the name of the place, he said that some called it Spytty Cynfyn, and others Spytty Cynwyl, and that both Cynwyl and Cynfyn were the names of people, to one or other of which the place was dedicated, and that, like the place farther on called Spytty Ystwyth, it was in the old time a hospital or inn for the convenience of the pilgrims going to the great monastery of Ystrad Flur or Strata Florida.

Passing through a field or two we came to the side of a very deep ravine, down which there was a zigzag path leading to the bridge. The path was very steep, and, owing to the rain, exceedingly slippery. For some way it led through a grove of dwarf oaks, by grasping the branches of which I was enabled to support myself tolerably well; nearly at the bottom, however, where the path was most precipitous, the trees ceased altogether. Fearing to trust my legs, I determined to slide down, and put my resolution in practice, arriving at a little shelf close by the bridge without any accident. The man, accustomed to the path, went down in the usual manner. The bridge consisted of a couple of planks and a pole flung over a chasm about ten feet wide, on the farther side of which was a precipice with a path at least quite as steep as the one down which I had come, and without any trees or shrubs by which those who used it might support themselves. The torrent rolled about nine feet below the bridge; its channel was tortuous; on the south-east side of the bridge was a cauldron, like that on which I had looked down from the bridge over the river of the monks. The man passed over the bridge and I followed him; on the other side we stopped and turned round. The river was rushing and surging, the pot was boiling and roaring, and everything looked wild and savage; but the locality, for awfulness and mysterious gloom, could not compare with that on the east side of the Devil's Bridge, nor for sublimity and grandeur with that on the west.

"Here you see, sir," said the man, "the Bridge of the Offeiriad, called so, it is said, because the popes used to pass over it in the old time; and here you have the Rheidol, which, though not so smooth nor so well off for banks as the Hafren and the Gwy, gets to the sea before either of them, and, as the pennill says, is quite as much entitled to honour:-

"'Hafren a Wy yn hyfryd eu wedd
A Rheidol vawr ei anrhydedd.'

Good rhyme, sir, that. I wish you would put it into Saesneg."

"I am afraid I shall make a poor hand of it," said I; "however, I will do my best:-

"'Oh pleasantly do glide along the Severn and the Wye; But Rheidol's rough, and yet he's held by all in honour high.'

"Very good rhyme that, sir! though not so good as the pennill Cymraeg. Ha, I do see that you know the two languages and are one poet. And now, sir, I must leave you, and go to the hills to my sheep, who I am afraid will be suffering in this dreadful weather. However, before I go, I should wish to see you safe over the bridge."

I shook him by the hand, and retracing my steps over the bridge, began clambering up the bank on my knees.

"You will spoil your trousers, sir!" cried the man from the other side.

"I don't care if I do," said I, "provided I save my legs, which are in some danger in this place, as well as my neck, which is of less consequence."

I hurried back amidst rain and wind to my friendly hospice, where, after drying my wet clothes as well as I could, I made an excellent dinner on fowl and bacon. Dinner over, I took up a newspaper which was brought me, and read an article about the Russian war, which did not seem to be going on much to the advantage of the allies. Soon flinging the paper aside, I stuck my feet on the stove, one on each side of the turf fire, and listened to the noises without. The bellowing of the wind down the mountain passes and the roaring of the Rheidol fall at the north side of the valley, and the rushing of the five cascades of the river Mynach, were truly awful. Perhaps I ought not to have said the five cascades of the Mynach, but the Mynach cascade, for now its five cascades had become one, extending from the chasm over which hung the bridge of Satan to the bottom of the valley.

After a time I fell into a fit of musing. I thought of the Plant de Bat; I thought of the spitties or hospitals connected with the great monastery of Ystrad Flur or Strata Florida; I thought of the remarkable bridge close by, built by a clever monk of that place to facilitate the coming of pilgrims with their votive offerings from the north to his convent; I thought of the convent built in the time of our Henry the Second by Ryce ab Gruffyd, prince of South Wales; and lastly, I thought of a wonderful man who was buried in its precincts, the greatest genius which Wales, and perhaps Britain, ever produced, on whose account, and not because of old it had been a magnificent building, and the most celebrated place of popish pilgrimage in Wales, I had long ago determined to visit it on my journey, a man of whose life and works the following is a brief account.


Birth and Early Years of Ab Gwilym - Morfudd - Relic of Druidism - The Men of Glamorgan - Legend of Ab Gwilym - Ab Gwilym as a Writer - Wonderful Variety - Objects of Nature - Gruffydd Gryg.

DAFYDD AB GWILYM was born about the year 1320, at a place called Bro Gynnin in the county of Cardigan. Though born in wedlock he was not conceived legitimately. His mother being discovered by her parents to be pregnant, was turned out of doors by them, whereupon she went to her lover, who married her, though in so doing he acted contrary to the advice of his relations. After a little time, however, a general reconciliation took place. The parents of Ab Gwilym, though highly connected, do not appear to have possessed much property. The boy was educated by his mother's brother Llewelyn ab Gwilym Fychan, a chief of Cardiganshire; but his principal patron in after life was Ifor, a cousin of his father, surnamed Hael, or the bountiful, a chieftain of Glamorganshire. This person received him within his house, made him his steward and tutor to his daughter. With this young lady Ab Gwilym speedily fell in love, and the damsel returned his passion. Ifor, however, not approving of the connection, sent his daughter to Anglesey, and eventually caused her to take the veil in a nunnery of that island. Dafydd pursued her, but not being able to obtain an interview, he returned to his patron, who gave him a kind reception. Under Ifor's roof he cultivated poetry with great assiduity and wonderful success. Whilst very young, being taunted with the circumstances of his birth by a brother bard called Rhys Meigan, he retorted in an ode so venomously bitter that his adversary, after hearing it, fell down and expired. Shortly after this event he was made head bard of Glamorgan by universal acclamation.

After a stay of some time with Ifor, he returned to his native county and lived at Bro Gynnin. Here he fell in love with a young lady of birth called Dyddgu, who did not favour his addresses. He did not break his heart, however, on her account, but speedily bestowed it on the fair Morfudd, whom he first saw at Rhosyr in Anglesey, to which place both had gone on a religious account. The lady after some demur consented to become his wife. Her parents refusing to sanction the union, their hands were joined beneath the greenwood tree by one Madawg Benfras, a bard, and a great friend of Ab Gwilym. The joining of people's hands by bards, which was probably a relic of Druidism, had long been practised in Wales, and marriages of this kind were generally considered valid, and seldom set aside. The ecclesiastical law, however, did not recognise these poetical marriages, and the parents of Morfudd by appealing to the law soon severed the union. After confining the lady for a short time, they bestowed her hand in legal fashion upon a chieftain of the neighbourhood, very rich but rather old, and with a hump on his back, on account which he was nicknamed bow-back, or little hump-back. Morfudd, however, who passed her time in rather a dull manner with this person, which would not have been the case had she done her duty by endeavouring to make the poor man comfortable, and by visiting the sick and needy around her, was soon induced by the bard to elope with him. The lovers fled to Glamorgan, where Ifor Hael, not much to his own credit, received them with open arms, probably forgetting how he had immured his OWN daughter in a convent, rather than bestow her on Ab Gwilym. Having a hunting-lodge in a forest on the banks of the lovely Taf, he allotted it to the fugitives as a residence. Ecclesiastical law, however, as strong in Wild Wales as in other parts of Europe, soon followed them into Glamorgan, and, very properly, separated them. The lady was restored to her husband, and Ab Gwilym fined to a very high amount. Not being able to pay the fine, he was cast into prison; but then the men of Glamorgan arose to a man, swearing that their head bard should not remain in prison. "Then pay his fine!" said the ecclesiastical law, or rather the ecclesiastical lawyer. "So we will!" said the men of Glamorgan, and so they did. Every man put his hand into his pocket; the amount was soon raised, the fine paid, and the bard set free.

Ab Gwilym did not forget this kindness of the men of Glamorgan, and, to requite it, wrote an address to the sun, in which he requests that luminary to visit Glamorgan, to bless it, and to keep it from harm. The piece concludes with some noble lines somewhat to this effect

"If every strand oppression strong
Should arm against the son of song,
The weary wight would find, I ween,
A welcome in Glamorgan green."

Some time after his release he meditated a second elopement with Morfudd, and even induced her to consent to go off with him. A friend, to whom he disclosed what he was thinking of doing, asking him whether he would venture a second time to take such a step, "I will," said the bard, "in the name of God and the men of Glamorgan." No second elopement, however, took place, the bard probably thinking, as has been well observed, that neither God nor the men of Glamorgan would help him a second time out of such an affair. He did not attain to any advanced age, but died when about sixty, some twenty years before the rising of Glendower. Some time before his death his mind fortunately took a decidedly religious turn.

He is said to have been eminently handsome in his youth, tall, slender, with yellow hair falling in ringlets down his shoulders. He is likewise said to have been a great libertine. The following story is told of him:-

"In a certain neighbourhood he had a great many mistresses, some married and others not. Once upon a time, in the month of June he made a secret appointment with each of his lady-loves, the place and hour of meeting being the same for all; each was to meet him at the same hour beneath a mighty oak which stood in the midst of a forest glade. Some time before the appointed hour he went, and climbing up the oak, hid himself amidst the dense foliage of its boughs. When the hour arrived he observed all the nymphs tripping to the place of appointment; all came, to the number of twenty-four - not one stayed away. For some time they remained beneath the oak staring at each other. At length an explanation ensued, and it appeared that they had all come to meet Ab Gwilym.

"'Oh, the treacherous monster!' cried they with one accord; 'only let him show himself and we will tear him to pieces.'

"'Will you?' said Ab Gwilym from the oak; 'here I am; let her who has been most wanton with me make the first attack upon me!'

"The females remained for some time speechless; all of a sudden, however, their anger kindled, not against the bard, but against each other. From harsh and taunting words they soon came to actions: hair was torn off, faces were scratched, blood flowed from cheek and nose. Whilst the tumult was at its fiercest Ab Gwilym slipped away."

The writer merely repeats this story, and he repeats it as concisely as possible, in order to have an opportunity of saying that he does not believe one particle of it. If he believed it, he would forthwith burn the most cherished volume of the small collection of books from which he derives delight and recreation, namely, that which contains the songs of Ab Gwilym, for he would have nothing in his possession belonging to such a heartless scoundrel as Ab Gwilym must have been had he got up the scene above described. Any common man who would expose to each other and the world a number of hapless, trusting females who had favoured him with their affections, and from the top of a tree would feast his eyes upon their agonies of shame and rage, would deserve to be - emasculated. Had Ab Gwilym been so dead to every feeling of gratitude and honour as to play the part which the story makes him play, he would have deserved not only to be emasculated, but to be scourged with harp-strings in every market-town in Wales, and to be dismissed from the service of the Muse. But the writer repeats that he does not believe one tittle of the story, though Ab Gwilym's biographer, the learned and celebrated William Owen, not only seems to believe it, but rather chuckles over it. It is the opinion of the writer that the story is of Italian origin, and that it formed part of one of the many rascally novels brought over to England after the marriage of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third son of Edward the Third, with Violante, daughter of Galeazzo, Duke of Milan.

Dafydd Ab Gwilym has been in general considered as a songster who never employed his muse on any subject save that of love, and there can be no doubt that by far the greater number of his pieces are devoted more or less to the subject of love. But to consider him merely in the light of an amatory poet would be wrong. He has written poems of wonderful power on almost every conceivable subject. Ab Gwilym has been styled the Welsh Ovid, and with great justice, but not merely because like the Roman he wrote admirably on love. The Roman was not merely an amatory poet: let the shade of Pythagoras say whether the poet who embodied in immortal verse the oldest, the most wonderful, and at the same time the most humane, of all philosophy was a mere amatory poet. Let the shade of blind Homer be called up to say whether the bard who composed the tremendous line -

"Surgit ad hos clypei dominus septemplicis Ajax" -

equal to any save ONE of his own, was a mere amatory songster. Yet, diversified as the genius of the Roman was, there is no species of poetry in which he shone in which the Welshman may not be said to display equal merit. Ab Gwilym, then, has been fairly styled the Welsh Ovid. But he was something more - and here let there be no sneers about Welsh: the Welsh are equal in genius, intellect and learning to any people under the sun, and speak a language older than Greek, and which is one of the immediate parents of the Greek. He was something more than the Welsh Ovid: he was the Welsh Horace, and wrote light, agreeable, sportive pieces, equal to any things of the kind composed by Horace in his best moods. But he was something more: he was the Welsh Martial, and wrote pieces equal in pungency to those of the great Roman epigrammatist, - perhaps more than equal, for we never heard that any of Martial's epigrams killed anybody, whereas Ab Gwilym's piece of vituperation on Rhys Meigan - pity that poets should be so virulent - caused the Welshman to fall down dead. But he was yet something more: he could, if he pleased, be a Tyrtaeus; he was no fighter - where was there ever a poet that was? - but he wrote an ode on a sword, the only warlike piece that he ever wrote, the best poem on the subject ever written in any language. Finally, he was something more: he was what not one of the great Latin poets was, a Christian; that is, in his latter days, when he began to feel the vanity of all human pursuits, when his nerves began to be unstrung, his hair to fall off, and his teeth to drop out, and he then composed sacred pieces entitling him to rank with - we were going to say Caedmon; had we done so we should have done wrong; no uninspired poet ever handled sacred subjects like the grand Saxon Skald - but which entitle him to be called a great religious poet, inferior to none but the protege of Hilda.

Before ceasing to speak of Ab Gwilym, it will be necessary to state that his amatory pieces, which constitute more than one-half of his productions, must be divided into two classes: the purely amatory and those only partly devoted to love. His poems to Dyddgu and the daughter of Ifor Hael are productions very different from those addressed to Morfudd. There can be no doubt that he had a sincere affection for the two first; there is no levity in the cowydds which he addressed to them, and he seldom introduces any other objects than those of his love. But in his cowydds addressed to Morfudd is there no levity? Is Morfudd ever prominent? His cowydds to that woman abound with humorous levity, and for the most part have far less to do with her than with natural objects - the snow, the mist, the trees of the forest, the birds of the air, and the fishes of the stream. His first piece to Morfudd is full of levity quite inconsistent with true love. It states how, after seeing her for the first time at Rhosyr in Anglesey, and falling in love with her, he sends her a present of wine by the hands of a servant, which present she refuses, casting the wine contemptuously over the head of the valet. This commencement promises little in the way of true passion, so that we are not disappointed when we read a little farther on that the bard is dead and buried, all on account of love, and that Morfudd makes a pilgrimage to Mynyw to seek for pardon for killing him, nor when we find him begging the popish image to convey a message to her. Then presently we almost lose sight of Morfudd amidst birds, animals and trees, and we are not sorry that we do; for though Ab Gwilym is mighty in humour, great in describing the emotions of love and the beauties of the lovely, he is greatest of all in describing objects of nature; indeed in describing them he has no equal, and the writer has no hesitation in saying that in many of his cowydds in which he describes various objects of nature, by which he sends messages to Morfudd, he shows himself a far greater poet than Ovid appears in any one of his Metamorphoses. There are many poets who attempt to describe natural objects without being intimately acquainted with them, but Ab Gwilym was not one of these. No one was better acquainted with nature; he was a stroller, and there is every probability that during the greater part of the summer he had no other roof than the foliage, and that the voices of birds and animals were more familiar to his ears than was the voice of man. During the summer months, indeed, in the early part of his life, he was, if we may credit him, generally lying perdue in the woodland or mountain recesses near the habitation of his mistress, before or after her marriage, awaiting her secret visits, made whenever she could escape the vigilance of her parents, or the watchful of her husband, and during her absence he had nothing better to do than to observe objects of nature and describe them. His ode to the Fox, one of the most admirable of his pieces, was composed on one of these occasions.

Want of space prevents the writer from saying as much as he could wish about the genius of this wonderful man, the greatest of his country's songsters, well calculated by nature to do honour to the most polished age and the most widely-spoken language. The bards his contemporaries, and those who succeeded him for several hundred years, were perfectly convinced of his superiority, not only over themselves, but over all the poets of the past; and one, and a mighty one, old Iolo the bard of Glendower, went so far as to insinuate that after Ab Gwilym it would be of little avail for any one to make verses -

"Aed lle mae'r eang dangneff, Ac aed y gerdd gydag ef."

"To Heaven's high peace let him depart, And with him go the minstrel art."

He was buried at Ystrad Flur, and a yew tree was planted over his grave, to which Gruffydd Gryg, a brother bard, who was at one time his enemy, but eventually became one of the most ardent of his admirers, addressed an ode, of part of which the following is a paraphrase:-

"Thou noble tree, who shelt'rest kind
The dead man's house from winter's wind;
May lightnings never lay thee low;
Nor archer cut from thee his bow,
Nor Crispin peel thee pegs to frame;
But may thou ever bloom the same,
A noble tree the grave to guard
Of Cambria's most illustrious bard!"


Start for Plynlimmon - Plynlimmon's Celebrity - Troed Rhiw Goch.

THE morning of the fifth of November looked rather threatening. As, however, it did not rain, I determined to set off for Plynlimmon, and, returning at night to the inn, resume my journey to the south on the following day. On looking into a pocket almanac I found it was Sunday. This very much disconcerted me, and I thought at first of giving up my expedition. Eventually, however, I determined to go, for I reflected that I should be doing no harm, and that I might acknowledge the sacredness of the day by attending morning service at the little Church of England chapel which lay in my way.

The mountain of Plynlimmon to which I was bound is the third in Wales for altitude, being only inferior to Snowdon and Cadair Idris. Its proper name is Pum, or Pump, Lumon, signifying the five points, because towards the upper part it is divided into five hills or points. Plynlimmon is a celebrated hill on many accounts. It has been the scene of many remarkable events. In the tenth century a dreadful battle was fought on one of its spurs between the Danes and the Welsh, in which the former sustained a bloody overthrow; and in 1401 a conflict took place in one of its valleys between the Welsh, under Glendower, and the Flemings of Pembrokeshire, who, exasperated at having their homesteads plundered and burned by the chieftain who was the mortal enemy of their race, assembled in considerable numbers and drove Glendower and his forces before them to Plynlimmon, where, the Welshmen standing at bay, a contest ensued, in which, though eventually worsted, the Flemings were at one time all but victorious. What, however, has more than anything else contributed to the celebrity of the hill is the circumstance of its giving birth to three rivers, the first of which, the Severn, is the principal stream in Britain; the second, the Wye, the most lovely river, probably, which the world can boast of; and the third, the Rheidol, entitled to high honour from its boldness and impetuosity, and the remarkable banks between which it flows in its very short course, for there are scarcely twenty miles between the ffynnon or source of the Rheidol and the aber or place where it disembogues itself into the sea.

I started about ten o'clock on my expedition, after making, of course, a very hearty breakfast. Scarcely had I crossed the Devil's Bridge when a shower of hail and rain came on. As, however, it came down nearly perpendicularly, I put up my umbrella and laughed. The shower pelted away till I had nearly reached Spytty Cynwyl, when it suddenly left off and the day became tolerably fine. On arriving at the Spytty, I was sorry to find that there would be no service till three in the afternoon. As waiting till that time was out of the question, I pushed forward on my expedition. Leaving Pont Erwyd at some distance on my left, I went duly north till I came to a place amongst hills where the road was crossed by an angry-looking rivulet, the same, I believe which enters the Rheidol near Pont Erwyd, and which is called the Castle River. I was just going to pull off my boots and stockings in order to wade through, when I perceived a pole and a rail laid over the stream at little distance above where I was. This rustic bridge enabled me to cross without running the danger of getting a regular sousing, for these mountain streams, even when not reaching so high as the knee, occasionally sweep the wader off his legs, as I know by my own experience. From a lad whom I presently met I learned that the place where I crossed the water was called Troed rhiw goch, or the Foot of the Red Slope.

About twenty minutes' walk from hence brought me to Castell Dyffryn, an inn about six miles distant from the Devil's Bridge, and situated near a spur of the Plynlimmon range. Here I engaged a man to show me the sources of the rivers and the other wonders of the mountain. He was a tall, athletic fellow, dressed in brown coat, round buff hat, corduroy trousers, linen leggings and highlows, and, though a Cumro, had much more the appearance of a native of Tipperary than a Welshman. He was a kind of shepherd to the people of the house, who, like many others in South Wales, followed farming and inn-keeping at the same time.

George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery (Oxford, Mississippi, 1996)

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